I find the often conflicting research that tries to answer the question of whether money can or can’t buy you happiness, is in fact directly in conflict with one of the prime causes that creates unhappiness in people.
What we know from overwhelmingly repetitive findings from studies on the effects of comparing ourselves and our lifestyles to other people is that it is a zero-sum game. There will always be someone better off than you are in some way… so comparing and trying to keep up with the Joneses just doesn’t make sense.
The marketing world is invested in the non-logical buying behaviour of human beings and promotes the idea that we do need to keep up with our neigbours to be happy. So when you also read that there is an income level that researchers have found (somewhere between $75,000 and $100,000 depending on the study) that seems to be a threshold at which the ‘basics’ are covered and we can live a comfortable lifestyle, surely all that is doing, is getting us to compare ourselves with others and so we are back on the hedonic treadmill of keeping up with the Jones again.
Financial Planners and Advisers, please take note here because you’re in the profession that can more directly influence this aspect of people’s understanding and lifestyle potential than any other industry.
The bigger question is not whether money can or can’t buy happiness and it’s not about how much money you’re actually earning or have the potential to earn. The bigger question is to what extent are you clear about what you want to have in your life (things that money can and can’t buy) and how you want to live your life.
Only until you are clear about this, which is the 1st inescapable truth in the Intentionomics Blueprint (Define a Prosperous Life For You), the practice of comparing yourself and your lifestyle to others, and picking an earning capacity figure (earning how much money will make you happy?) are both redundant exercises.
Cynics will say that’s easy for someone who doesn’t have to worry about money to say… and yep, I agree. That’s if you only think that it’s my view and you miss the opportunity to address the practical logic in what I’m suggesting.
Rather than worry about the headlines and the research and how it affects you compared to others, get focused just on yourself.
Ask yourself what is it that I already have in my life for which I am grateful. This is a great place to start the process of defining what a prosperous life would actually look like for you.
What if, and I’m not saying that it is true for you, but what if, when you stop and truly consider how much you already have in your life, (the things that money can and can’t buy), that having more, realistically won’t add any true value to your overall sense of happiness and well-being?
And, if you do ask that question, and you do make a list of all you’re grateful for in your life right now, then you can get a little more practical about answering the question ‘And what don’t I have now, that if I did (things that money can and can’t buy) would improve my overall sense of happiness, comfort, pride and well-being?
Advertisements on the TV that tell us we need $1,000,000 in retirement investments (superannuation and others) to live a comfortable life is based on an old paradigm of retirement at age somewhere between 55 and 65.
We also know that at the moment, the average amount of retirement investments in superannuation for the average person about to enter that period of their life falls well below that (almost by two thirds).
In a recent interview on TV, finance guru Paul Clithero suggested the old paradigm of having to retire at age 55 or 65 is one that many Australians need to reconsider if they want to live a comfortable lifestyle and not have to rely on the Government Pension.
This doesn’t mean working in the same role and earning the same amount will be the preferred choice of everyone, but a reframing of what else could you do in this third stage of your life where you can continue to earn income may indeed be well worth considering.
This is where financial planners and advisers can really be of assistance to helping us clear up what our potential is for each of us.
So my point in this post is to stop comparing and get focused on YOU. What’s your reality and potential, not what’s your potential compared to others. What are you grateful for now in your life? By answering this, only then can you silence the ‘noise’ about what it takes for the ‘average’ person to live a happy, flourishing and prosperous life.